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A look at the Hall of Fame ballot & who could be elected

2017 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Tonight, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the results of its 2018 Hall of Fame balloting, voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). You can watch results tonight at 5pm CT on MLB Network. The announcement of the results has become a precursor to spring training - it is the final nod to the end of baseball’s offseason and the promise of pitchers and catchers reporting to their team’s spring locations.

For the last four years, I’ve gotten to vote in the Hall of Fame balloting. No, not the one done by the BBWAA. No, for the last four years I have been a member of the Internet Baseball Writers’ Association of America (IBWAA). You are probably wondering why the IBWAA exists and just what we do, right?

The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) was created July 4, 2009 to organize and promote the growing online baseball media, and to serve as a digital alternative to the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).

The IBWAA votes for Cooperstown in December, and during September of each championship season holds elections for the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year Awards. In 2010, the IBWAA began voting in its own relief pitcher category, establishing the Rollie Fingers American League Relief Pitcher of the Year and the Hoyt Wilhelm National League Relief Pitcher of the Year Awards.

In other words, with print media withering away and digital becoming the norm, we are a different voice in the baseball discussion. While membership is smaller, the IBWAA does consist of such notable writers as David Schoenfield, Jon Heyman, Will Leitch, Pedro Moura, Ken Rosenthal, and Eno Sarris.

So with that said, we hold our elections around the same time and have already elected a few players who are still on the BBWAA ballot. Edgar Martinez was voted into our Hall of Fame in 2016 (with his former teammate Ken Griffey, Jr.) while Vladimir Guerrero was elected just last January. Because of that, neither player shows up on my list for this year (although I voted for both whenever they have appeared on the ballot).

The other difference is that we can vote up to 15 players on our HOF ballot, while the BBWAA is left with only 10 spots. On the surface it doesn’t feel like a huge difference but with a loaded list of players, those five extra spots come in handy. With that being said, here is my ballot, as I ended up voting for 13 players:

My 2018 IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

Barry Bonds

Roger Clemens

Trevor Hoffman

Chipper Jones

Mike Mussina

Manny Ramirez

Scott Rolen

Johan Santana

Curt Schilling

Gary Sheffield

Jim Thome

Billy Wagner

Larry Walker

Obviously, I am a proponent of a big Hall of Fame. I have certain parameters that I go by when voting, but all of it is statistical driven (I do not care about PED use. If you want to know why, you can read this). Some of these are self-explanatory, while a few votes need more detail. If you want to read the in-depth version of my ballot, click here (and I go really deep for a number of the candidates, FYI).

A couple of players on my list are guys that I feel are worthy of the honor and could fall under the 5% requirement to stay on the ballot. Scott Rolen is listed as the 8th best third baseman according to the Hall of Stats and 10th best according to JAWS. He played a lot of his career in the shadow of Chipper Jones and Adrian Beltre and was not only an elite defender but a well above average offensive player as well.

While Johan Santana only played in the big leagues for 12 seasons, in that span he was one of the best starting pitchers for a large chunk of his career. Santana is obviously a borderline Hall of Famer, and while the accumulative stats don’t do him any favors, the advanced metrics push him higher up the all-time rankings. In fact, Santana’s metrics are very similar to those of another left-handed pitcher whose career was shortened, one Sandy Koufax.

I am also “Pro-Closer”, which is why I continue to vote for Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner. I’m not a big fan of the save stat, but both Hoffman and Wagner have great save conversion rates (86% for Wagner, 88.8% for Hoffman) and Hoffman saved 20+ games for 15 consecutive seasons, which should account for something. Hoffman and Wagner were both productive and efficient during their career and should be rewarded accordingly. The argument that they weren’t as good as Mariano Rivera is an unfair one, since no one was as good as Rivera. In many ways, Hoffman being compared to Rivera is the equivalent of Tim Raines being unfairly judged for not being Rickey Henderson.

So those are my votes. But how will the official voting go down for the induction into Cooperstown this upcoming summer? So far 55.2% of the BBWAA ballots have been made public and five players are currently over the 75% threshold needed to get inducted: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Edgar Martinez and Trevor Hoffman.

Jones, Thome and Guerrero are all over 90% and are almost locks at this point. Edgar sits at 76.9% and would need to be on 72.6% of the remaining ballots to get in. Hoffman meanwhile sits at 78.2%, needing to be on 71.1% of the remaining ballots. Hoffman probably has the better shot this year, since he only missed election last year by five votes and has already seen a +11 gain this year. Martinez has seen a big uptick as well but he has a larger hill to climb since he only received 58.6% of the vote in 2017. He has seen a +24 gain so far this year but will need even more to stay over 75%. Most players see a decrease on their final numbers compared to where they are polling just a few days before the big announcement.

So it looks like we are guaranteed at least four new inductees this summer and possibly a fifth to go along with the Modern Baseball Era Committee elections of Jack Morris and Alan Trammell. If that is the case, expect a busy afternoon of speeches in upstate New York this July.

The beauty of this process is that we should constantly be re-evaluating who deserves this honor and listening to the arguments people have to why that is. I know I have changed my mind on players over the years and I’m sure it will change again in the future. We are living in a statistical age where we have access to the information to decide who is worthy and who falls just short. To me, baseball is better when we honor these great achievements and welcome them with open arms. The more the merrier, as they say.

Who will be voted in tonight? Who do you think should be in?